Former police chief tells inquiry ‘reaction to racism claim shows it was right’

Sir Iain Livingstone told the Sheku Bayoh Inquiry that he had received a backlash over his claim that Police Scotland was ‘institutionally racist’.

Sir Iain Livingstone tells inquiry ‘reaction to racism claim shows it was right’ PA Media

The former chief constable of Police Scotland said the backlash he received for branding the force “institutionally racist” proved his assessment was correct, an inquiry heard.

Sir Iain Livingstone, who stepped down from the position in August, after five years in the role, gave evidence to the Sheku Bayoh Inquiry and said that he had tried to stay as independent as possible while investigations into possible misconduct continued.

Sir Iain admitted that a nine-year wait to find out if police officers would be subject to misconduct proceedings was too long.

Mr Bayoh, 31, a father-of-two, died after he was restrained on the ground by six police officers in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on May 3 2015.

The inquiry is examining the circumstances leading to Mr Bayoh’s death, how police dealt with the aftermath, the investigation into his death, and whether race was a factor.

At the inquiry on Friday, senior counsel Angela Grahame KC raised questions about delays.

Ms Grahame said: “Officers involved in 2015 still have the issue of possible misconduct hanging over their heads nine years later. There have been comments by a judge that is a considerable period of time for the officers and their family.”

Sir Iain said: “I do think the delay is excessive and prejudicial potentially and unsatisfactory to the family and wider public interest. What the resolution is for those delays, I am not clear in my mind.”

He said there were alternatives used in other jurisdictions, including the Independent Office of Police Complaints (IOPC), which operates in England and Wales, but these would be “costly”.

Ms Grahame asked if he was aware of “confusion” between the PIRC, the Professional Standards Department and the Scottish Police Authority around responsibility for misconduct.

The ex-chief constable said: “I wasn’t aware of what you outlined.”

Sir Iain said that a report by an Independent Review Group (IRG) published in May 2023 led to him making the comment about institutional racism, and said it echoed the Macpherson report, after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in south-east London in 1993.

The IRG report said: “There was a widespread view that while discriminatory attitudes were far from a thing of the past in Police Scotland, there had been a marked shift over the past decade.

“However our interviews with both key interviewees and divisional staff revealed instances of discrimination against minoritised communities, including first-hand accounts of racism, sexism and homophobia.”

It added: “Our interviews also suggest that those who do not experience every day forms of discrimination equate this to an absence of occurrences of discrimination within the workplace.”

Sir Iain said that people in senior positions would be less likely to experience discrimination.

He told the inquiry he was unaware of a report which said that the Professional Standards Department was less likely to act on complaints regarding protected characteristics, than on criminality.

He said: “If that was their view or perception it would have concerned me, definitely.”

Sir Iain said that if independent scrutiny was invited “you have to be prepared to take it”.

He said he believed that acknowledging institutional racism was the first step to dealing with it.

He added: “I saw the determination of institutional racism as a foundation of that .. once you’ve acknowledged it, you can move forward.”

Ms Grahame said: “Where you didn’t see examples of racism, do you think that could be an explanation that you’re not experiencing it yourself, but there does appear to be examples of discrimination in the workplace, despite the fact that someone in your position would not necessarily see it?”

Sir Iain said: “WhatsApp groups were brought to my attention, they would never manifest themselves openly in front of me.

“A woman officer may well experience all sorts of overt or indirect misogyny but may not necessarily have observed racism – it’s what you see and what you experience.

“When I made the statement about institutional racism and discrimination, there was overwhelming support from officers and staff of colour.

“Some of the quite aggressive pushback came from people who didn’t see it, and didn’t experience it, who said it didn’t exist.

“What happened after I said my statement corroborated it and asked people to genuinely consider what we mean by institutional racism.”

He added: “The leadership responsibility is to take the organisation where it needs to be, to move it forward.”

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